Despite Initial Fears, Bikeshare Is Proving Safe

When New York City rolled out its bike sharing program a year ago, critics raised concerns. Adding an influx of inexperienced cyclists to the already-congested New York streets, pundits predicted, would mean a stark increase in injuries, fatalities, and subsequent lawsuits. Six thousand new bikes and 8.75 million rides later, this has not been the case. As Will Oremus from Slate recently reported, there has yet to be a single fatal accident and the total number of reported crashes is pleasantly low at around

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Photo Credit: Ann Harkness

Safety outputs like these aren’t limited to New York either. Other major metros such as Paris, London, and Washington DC have reported similar figures. Likewise, our own Austin B-Cycle has yet to report any serious injuries since its launch in December.

It’s easy to assume what New York critics did, but the increasing number of cyclists on urban roadways is likely making conditions safer. This comes as no surprise to those who pay attention to bike and pedestrian research. Numerous studies have suggested that increases in cyclist traffic are associated with decreases in accident rates. The idea here is that as motorists become more accustomed to seeing cyclists on the road, they accordingly adopt more bike-cautious driving behaviors.

This only bolsters the case for improving current street infrastructure, à la a Complete Streets design. Research has consistently shown that on-street bike facilities, and the feelings of safety they evoke, markedly encourage ridership.

Quite simply, better infrastructure means more bikes on the street, and more bikes on the street equals more safety for bikers. These complimentary positive feedback loops are very encouraging for those aspiring to change transportation habits.

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